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Man enters guilty plea

The wife of a Catholic deacon who was slain on U.S. 40 won’t have to testify against the killers of her husband.

Antonio Pelaez Vasquez, 56, will likely join his son, 20-year-old Cunny Pelaez, in prison after he pleaded guilty to murder Wednesday for participating in the slaying of Heber resident Aniceto Armendariz.

The two men from Mexico, who prosecutors say were living in the U.S. illegally at the time of the shooting, stand accused of gunning down Armendariz from inside a moving vehicle as the religious leader was driving from Park City to Heber Sept. 25, 2005.

The 20-year-old was persuaded to shoot the deacon by Pelaez Vasquez, Wasatch County Attorney Thomas Low contends.

Though the men appeared jealous of Armendariz because of the deacon’s success, a motive for the shooting is unclear, he adds.

Armendariz was a popular leader among many Latinos in Summit and Wasatch counties, having worked at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Park City.

Prosecutors didn’t seek the death penalty for Pelaez, who was sentenced in March to six years to life in prison for murdering Armendariz. Though Pelaez apologized for the death of the deacon, he denies he shot the man.

For pleading guilty to first-degree felony murder Pelaez Vasquez could be sentenced to serve 5 years to life in prison. Prosecutors dismissed two third-degree felony charges filed against Pelaez Vasquez for possession of a firearm by a restricted person and possession of a controlled substance.

Investigators maintain that Armendariz was shot in the head with a shotgun by Cunny Pelaez, which caused the deacon’s vehicle to roll several times.

Heber resident Alma Armendariz, the slain religious leader’s wife, asked prosecutors to not seek the death penalty in the case.

"We are people of peace Taking the murderer’s life does not erase Aniceto’s death and will not bring him back to life," she told 4th District Court Judge Samuel McVey at Pelaez’s sentencing hearing.

In his life the murdered deacon cautioned youth in the area, including Pelaez, to avoid crime, she said.

"He was a peacemaker, a mentor for many people, including those who ended his life," she told the court.

Pelaez called Armendariz ‘maestro,’ which means teacher in Spanish, Low said in a recent telephone interview, adding, "to have him turn around and kill him, she felt betrayed."

Sentencing for Pelaez Vasquez is scheduled May 3 at 9 a.m.


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